The old country, well regarded

The Obamas just got done hosting their first state dinner. A full year after they took office. Gordon Brown didn't get one on his visit. Neither did Netanyahu. Manmohan Singh, the Indian Prime Minister, has been the only visiting head of state to get one. Interesting ...

It's gone relatively unremarked, but there are 2-million Americans of Indian descent now. Indian Americans are the wealthiest minority in the US (not the Jews: please don't tell the neo-Nazis). The community is also extremely engaged in the political and cultural milieu of this country. And of course, Silicon Valley is chockful of Indian millionaires. So, this is not just about India being a natural ally of the US, it's also about domestic politics. Still, it's gratifying to see the old home country being well regarded.

... the meatless menu included a mix of Indian and American favorites, including some African-American standards. Collard greens and curried prawns, chickpeas and okra, nan and cornbread ... So, you have a vegetarian guest and you decide to have a meatless meal in his honor. How about a vegetarian meal? Come on, can't you give the crustaceans a rest? Still ... collard greens and curried prawns is an inspirational combination, especially for a state dinner: it's reflective of vibrant melting pots, of New Orleans (Mississippi & Cajun) and Mumbai (Karnataka & Goa). Curried prawns, eh? Wonder if they're as good as mine. Could us plebes get a recipe?

Obama gave a shout-out to the shared ideals of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., saying that these giants were the reasons why he (Obama) and Manmohan Singh could be there that night. Brings to mind this famous photograph of MLK standing beside a picture of Gandhi. A good set of shared ideals to harken to.

At home, though, it's a different shared history between India and the US that has taken hold. The kids and I somehow ended up reading back-to-back the stories of Paul Revere ("The British are coming"), the first War of Indian Independence (the brutal put down of the "Sepoy Mutiny") and the Madison presidency (Madison fleeing across the Potomac as the British burned down the White House). Now, the 5-year old thinks "British" is just one type of monster. Americans have put their sordid history with the British behind them, to the point where a British accent is fawned over. In India, however, British influences are still a prickly point. In contrast, Indian attitudes towards America and Americans are uncomplicated and mostly admiring.

But, forget all that! Curried prawns ... wish I can find Marcus Samuelsson's recipe. I bet you anything the he's fruited it up with mango sauce or something. Mine's probably better. Sure, it is.

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